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Research and clinical trials

Researchers are looking at improving the diagnosis and treatment of bowel and rectal neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). There are a number of clinical trials for people to join in the UK. See how you can take part in a clinical trial.

What clinical trials are

Clinical trials aim to find out if a test or treatment is safe or works better than current ones.

Research into diagnosis

Doctors often use radioactive scans such as octreotide scans and PET scans to help diagnose NETs. They can also show whether the tumour has spread to another part of the body.

You usually have an injection of a radioactive substance (a tracer) before the scan. This helps to show up the neuroendocrine tumour cells. Researchers are looking at different types of tracers to see if it can show up NET cells better. One new tracer is called 18F-FET-βAG-TOCA.

Research into the immune system and NETs

Researchers are looking at how the immune system responds to NETs. And at how treatment with chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs can affect the immune cells inside these tumours. 

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer. Researchers aim to use the results of these studies to see whether immunotherapy can help people with NETs.

Gene changes and treatment

Doctors would like to improve treatment and outcome for NETs. To do this, they need to understand more about how these tumours develop, and how their growth is controlled. But this has been difficult so far because NETs are rare and it has not always been possible to collect fresh samples of these tumours to study.

Doctors have collected blood, urine and fresh tissue samples from people with a NET. They are studying genes and gene changes, as well as possible gene faults passed down in families. They hope to find features that might help in the future with diagnosing and treating NETs.

Research into treatment

Somatostatin analogues

Doctors are looking at new drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. Researchers think that this will slow down neuroendocrine tumour growth. These drugs are called somatostatin analogues. Somatostatin analogues that doctors are currently looking at include:

  • lanreotide autogel
  • PEN-221

Targeted drugs

Doctors are looking for new ways to help people with NETs that have spread to another part of the body. Lenvatinib is a targeted cancer drug. It works by blocking certain proteins that help cells to grow blood vessels. All cancer cells need blood vessels to survive and grow. Doctors think that lenvatinib might stop the cancer from growing.

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

PRRT is a type of internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiotherapy from inside the body. PRRT uses a radioactive substance which you have by a drip into a vein. Researchers want to see how well PRRT works for people with bowel NETs.

Researchers are looking into PRRT using the radioactive substances 177Lu-edotreotide and 177Lu-OPSC001.

Find a clinical trial

Our clinical trials database has information about UK clinical trials for NETs including summaries of trial results.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
23 Jan 2019
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Accessed June 2018

  • Guidelines For the Management of Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine (Including Carcinoid) Tumours (NETs)
    J Ramage and others
    Gut, 2012. Vol 61, Pages 6-32 

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg 
    Wolters Kluwer, 2015

  • ENETS Consensus Guidelines Update for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms of the Jejunum and Ileum
    B Niederle and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2016. Vol 103

  • Consensus Guidelines for the Management and Treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors
    P Kunz and others
    Pancreas, 2013. Vol 42, Number 4, Pages 557-577